After hearing Ken Gernander's assessment of his team's battle level while dropping its first two games of the season last weekend, it was no surprise to see the amount and variety of drills stressing one-on-one situations and simulated game battles when the Whale returned to practice Tuesday.
While the intense practices may go a long way to putting the Whale on the winning track, the return to health of forwards Marek Hrivik and Ryan Bourque is equally as important to the club. Both Hrivik and Bourque sat out Friday's loss to Bridgeport and Sunday's defeat at the hands of St. Johns due to injury, and neither had practiced for a couple of weeks.
But Tuesday Hrivik was back on the ice wearing a red practice jersey skating on a line with Kris Newbury and JT Miller, and Bourque wore orange while skating as the extra forward. By the looks of that it would seem Hrivik is closer to a return to the lineup than Bourque.
"It's going to take a while to get in game shape," explained Hrivik, who did not play in any pre-season games either after suffering an undisclosed injury early in training camp. "But I am hoping to play this weekend (against Norfolk), that's my plan. It's the coach's decision, so we'll see what he says."
Bourque, the second-year pro, was shaken up in a training camp collision and missed the final two pre-season contests. He was extremely upbeat after practicing Tuesday, though he would not put a timetable on his return to game action.
"I feel much better, really really good," said a smiling Bourque.
Having Hrivik and Bourque back in the lineup---when that does indeed happen---will give Gernander more depth, and more options, with his forward line combinations. Yesterday the coach had Kyle Jean centering Chris Kreider and Christian Thomas to create a potentially exciting offensive complement to Newbury's line, while Michael Haley skated in between Chad Kolarik and Andrew Yogan---another line that could pop in some goals. Kelsey Tessier centered the fourth line with Tommy Grant and Brandon Segal on the wings.
The Whale, which has scored six goals---five on the power play---the first two games, will face Norfolk on the road Friday and Saturday. After practice Wednesday they will travcel to Vorhees, NJ where they will practice Thursday at the Flyers practice facility, before traveling down to Norfolk.
The start of the season means Whale players need to find places to live and other players to live with if they are not married.
A pair of 2010 Rangers draft picks, first rounder Dylan McIlrath and second rounder Christian Thomas, will be apartment mates this season. And rookie Kyle Jean is partnering up with defenseman Mike Vernace.
"Just looking for some veteran savvy," Jean joked when asked about Vernace.
Jean's big concern is cooking, something, fortunately, Vernace is good at.
"Yeah he's going to handle the cooking...I can't cook at all," laughed Jean. "I might buy my Mom a ticket to fly down here and do some cooking for me!"
The skilled 22 year-old rookie, who already has two goals and three points, even Tweeted asking fans to help him while he was in the grocery store Sunday.
"It's pretty sad," noted Jean.
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October 17, 2012